AT&T ends test of data limits and per-gigabyte billing for DSL subscribers

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

AT&T ends test of data limits for DSL subscribers

NEW YORK — AT&T Inc. recently imposed limits on the data consumption of its customers with smart phones, but it has ended a test of such limits for home Internet connections.

The phone company confirmed Tuesday that it is no longer holding DSL subscribers in Reno, Nev., and Beaumont, Texas, to data consumption limits and charging them extra if they go over.

With AT&T’s retreat, no major Internet service provider is championing the idea of charging subscribers for their data usage. Time Warner Cable Inc. was a major proponent of the idea and also conducted a trial in Beaumont, but backed away last summer after its plan to expand metered billing to other cities met fierce resistance from consumers and legislators.

AT&T’s trial started in November 2008 in Reno, and was later extended to Beaumont. It ended on April 1 this year, said AT&T spokeswoman Dawn Benton.

“We’re reviewing data from the trial, and this feedback will guide us as we evaluate our next steps,” Benton said.

The end of the trial was reported this week by the blog Stop The Cap.

At the start of the test, Dallas-based AT&T limited traffic to 20 gigabytes per month for users of its slowest DSL service. The limit increased with the speed of the plan, up to 150 gigabytes per month. Those who exceeded the limit paid $1 per gigabyte.

In practice, e-mail and Web use didn’t take subscribers close to the limits, but online video services, videoconferencing and game downloads could. AT&T and Time Warner Cable said the caps were a way to curb “bandwidth hogs” — subscribers who consume an inordinate amount of data, slowing down service for other subscribers. Time Warner Cable set much lower initial limits than AT&T in its trial, starting at 5 gigabytes per month.

Last week, AT&T revamped how it charges for data use on smart phones. Instead of charging $30 per month for unlimited usage, it gives new customers a choice of a $15-per-month plan with 200 megabytes of data or a $25 plan with 2 gigabytes. It then charges extra for those who go over. The limits are lower than for DSL because wireless networks have much less capacity.

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